Amy Grabowski, MA, LCPC
Clients then complain in therapy, “I don’t think this is working. I’ve been coming here for two months and I’m still overeating. In fact talking about all the other stuff seems to be making the eating worse.” Their Critic says “If you are not completely binge and purge free without effort then you are not recovering.” The Critic discounts all the small steps of progress towards recovery.
I also have to remind them that there are two halves of recovery – the food/eating/ weight half and the thoughts/feelings/moods half. Both of these halves are important and you cannot make progress in only one without making progress in the other. This would be like walking using only one foot – you don’t get very far unless the other foot takes steps too. (Editors note: See Article: “Both Halves of Recovery” from Vol 8 #3, September-December 2002 on our website:http://www.awakeningcenter.net/newsletter/septdec2002.htm#1.)
I encouraged Ellen to learn from this difficult situation and look at it not as a failure, but rather an opportunity to learn about herself and grow. Imagining herself in the grocery store, she described the point at which she noticed the anxiety start. We were able to connect the anxiety to a young Part of herself who was afraid she was not going to be fed. This reminded Ellen of times in her childhood when her parents left the children home alone to fend for themselves. Ellen resorted to eating raw foods because she was too young to cook. When Ellen yelled at herself for buying sweets, her young Part panicked even more, fearing that her foods were going to be taken from her thus causing the overbuying.
By looking at the situation without judgment or criticism, Ellen gained compassion for the young Part of herself. She realized she needed to remind herself that she was no longer a child dependent upon others who were not there for her. She promised the young Part there would be food for her to eat and she did not need to overbuy. If in the future she slipped by yelling and overbuying, she knew it to be a reminder to take time before shopping to reassure the young Part again.